taking the words of Jesus seriously

My wife, the beautiful Val [tbV] left for a week’s conference in Atlanta today.

As is my tradition when I am away from her I wrote her a letter to remind her that she is much loved and thought of while she is away. And I googled ‘inspirational wife quote’ to try and find an uplifting quote to give her.

Over 40 pages of quotes appeared on a site called ‘Brainyquote’ and one of the first ones I saw was this one, which I used:

‘Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.’ [Franz Schubert]

As I finished my letter to tbV I thought, ‘Let me find her another cool quote’ and that’s where it began…

Three pages later I had given up the search as quote after quote was of the following theme:

‘A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.’ [Michel de Montaigne]

‘Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same thing.’ [Oscar Wilde]

‘I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.’ [Rodney Dangerfield]

‘When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.’ [Sacha Guitry]

And on and on they went. I do realise that a number of the sources quoted are stand-up comedians, but that just goes to show the kind of thing we use to get laughs.

It is a subtle erosion of marriage and it is a message that happens all around us all of the time.

I get particularly annoyed when ministers make jokes about marriage at a wedding. It feels like sending the couple off on a lifelong journey with a negative message ringing in their ears. Phrases like “ball and chain” and lines like “marriage is like a phone call in the middle of the night – you get a ring and then you wake up” will get laughs, but they will also add a silent barb to those married people who may not be finding marriage that easy at the moment and it’s like a public confirmation that you might be right in thinking or feeling the way you are.

It would be marginally better if a search for ‘inspirational wife quotes’ had even produced a list where half of the quotes were lifting women and wives up as something good and worth celebrating. Instead i would say that 70% or even more of the quotes had the wife [or husband] as the butt of some joke, with many of them promoting adultery and mistresses as a normal expected part of the conversation.

In our experience, marriage has not always been the easiest thing. Especially when two strong personalities come together, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt, a lot of grace and Love to be chosen. Forgiveness to be asked for and freely given. We desperately need people cheering us on and holding up the idea of a working marriage, not throwing stones or tossing subtly camouflauged barbs ‘in the name of jest’ – it just isn’t helpful.

Let me agree with Franz that I am a happy man because I have found a true friend in my wife. I love Val very much and I cheer her on as she journeys through life on a path that often intersects with mine and sometimes doesn’t. I want her to feel lifted up by my words and actions [a feat i certainly don’t always get right] and never want something i say in jest to be something that causes her pain or mistrust or creates a space for even the smallest crack to start emerging.

Also by Brett: Blessed are the Retweeters…

I don’t think anyone just decided to commit adultery or give up on their marriage. It is a combination of a whole lot of smaller things that are left undealt with. A bunch of small, individual cracks that eventually become visible, often when it is too late.

I imagine there will be a bunch of people who think I am overreacting with this whole thing. But the marriage stats speak for themselves. Marriage does not have the greatest track record at the moment. It is in desperate need of people who will champion it, who will speak life into it and cheer it on from the sides [as other married couples and as single or dating people] – we need all the help we can get.

How about you? Can you identify with any of this notion of less-than-affirming-message-towards-marriage? When last did you hear someone speak about their husband or wife in joking fashion that really caused you to pause for a moment and raise an eyebrow? If you are married, how do others hear you speak about your spouse?

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